settle NYCLU lawsuit, Defense Department reforms student military
Democracy Now, January 9, 2007
In an agreement to settle a lawsuit
brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Department of Defense
today announced major changes to its database of information about high
school students, which is used for military recruitment efforts. The
changes will protect the privacy of American high school students and
give students and their families more tools to exempt themselves from
aggressive military recruitment in their schools and their homes.
The NYCLU sued on behalf of several high
school students after the DoD's billion dollar Joint Advertising and
Market Research Studies (JAMRS) military recruitment program began
collecting, maintaining, and distributing their personal and private
information, and that of millions of other high school students, in a
rogue database. Under today's settlement, the DoD will:
"The students who brought this lawsuit stood
up for the privacy rights of all American high school students," said
Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director. "Our job now is to spread the
word that young people who don't want to be harassed by the military
must do a 'double opt-out' – by both telling the Defense Department that
they want out of the JAMRS database and telling their high schools not
to provide the military with their contact information."
- stop disseminating student
information to law enforcement, intelligence or other agencies and
instead limit use of the JAMRS database to military recruiting;
- limit to three years the time the
DoD retains student information;
- stop collecting student Social
Security numbers; and
- establish and clarify procedures by
which students can block the military from entering information
about them in the database and have their information removed.
Announced in 2005, the DoD's massive
database flouted restrictions passed by Congress in a 1982 law intended
to balance the promotion of military recruitment with the protection of
students' privacy. Lawmakers specified that the DoD must keep the
information private and use only for military recruiting purposes, must
store the information for no more than three years, and must collect
only basic contact and educational information.
But in its database JAMRS allowed the information to be disseminated
widely to law enforcement, intelligence and other agencies, rather than
keeping it private; kept the information for five years; and aimed to
collect a wide variety of private and personal information about every
American high school student, including ethnicity and social security
"Today's changes to the JAMRS database
represent an acknowledgement by the military that they do not have carte
blanche to recruit without respect for the privacy of students and their
families," said Corey Stoughton, NYCLU Staff Attorney and lead counsel
in the case. "It's refreshing to see the Defense Department recognize
that it is not above the law."
Hope Reichbach contacted the NYCLU when
she was a student at Hunter College High School in Manhattan and became
a plaintiff in the lawsuit after trying and failing to have her name
removed from the lists and databases that have subjected her to repeated
phone calls from military recruiters. R"I got involved in this lawsuit
because I just wanted the military to leave me and other students
alone," Reichbach said. "I feel like we sent that message, and the DoD
stood up and listened."
Despite undertaking these major changes,
the DoD refuses to stop collecting information about students' race and
ethnicity. The NYCLU believes the DoD's resistance stems from the
military's on-going efforts to target racial and ethnic minorities,
especially from African-American and Latino communities, for aggressive
The NYCLU filed the case, Hanson et al.
v. Rumsfeld et al., in the Southern District of New York on April 24,
2006. Named defendants included Donald Rumsfeld, in his official
capacity as United States Secretary of Defense, and other DoD personnel.
NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn was co-counsel on the
- The DoD has published an
announcement of the changes to the database in a privacy notice in
the Federal Register. To download that notice in PDF form,
click here; to see it on the website of the Federal Register,
here (PDF format).
- To download a sample opt-out letter
that a student may use to remove herself from the database, click
here (Word format).
- To read an FAQ for students and
families about the JAMRS database, click
- To download a template for a letter
to the editor of your local paper about the JAMRS database, click